When your roof becomes damaged or has worn out from age, it's time to contact a roofing company to find out what it will cost to get your roof back to full health.

While the cost of roof repairs may persuade some homeowners to delay paying for this work, reluctance to fix your roof can carry significant long-term costs. Your roof plays a crucial role in protecting your home from severe weather and other elements, including rain, and a damaged roof is liable to allow water leaks and other damage to penetrate deeper into your home.

No matter what kind of work you need to be done on your roof, every project begins with an estimate of the scope of the project, including a cost. If you're dealing with roof repairs for the first time, here's what you need to know as you start this process.

Always Get a Roof Estimate

When seeking out a company to replace your roof, you need to be wary of scammers—especially people who knock on your door and offer to climb up to your roof. Any credible roofing company will offer a free roof estimate to homeowners looking to replace a roof, so if you come across a company that is trying to charge you a fee in exchange for a visit and estimate, it's time to walk away.

Keep in mind that there are certain situations where even a reputable roofing company will likely charge to provide an estimate. In cases where the estimate is for a real estate broker, or as part of a routine maintenance inspection, a fee may be charged since the estimate is not connected to a proposal for work. If you're seeking bids for a roof repair or replacement, though, you should expect to receive this for free.

Collect Multiple Roofing Quotes

When you're paying for a roof replacement or repair with your own money, it's crucial that you collect multiple quotes before committing to a roofing company. The quoted roof repair cost can vary dramatically from one company to the next, with quotes varying by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Multiple quotes will help you confirm that you're getting a fair price from whichever roofing company you choose.

Understanding Roof Pitch Factor in Your Quote

When repairing or replacing your roof, be prepared for the roof pitch to potentially impact the cost of roofing a house or implementing repairs—and the impact of the pitch on cost may surprise some homeowners.

For example, while many homeowners assume that low-pitch or flat roof replacement costs would be cheaper because of the simplicity and the reduced need for roofing materials, these surfaces can actually be more expensive due to the added drainage and other roofing infrastructure required to keep water off of the roof.

How to Measure a Roof for Shingles

When you read the estimate for your roof repairs or replacement, you may notice the measurements for the roof and the required shingles to be calculated by what's referred to as "squares." Each of these squares equates to 100 square feet, and roofers will purchase shingles—and bill homeowners—by the square, rather than by square footage.

A home with a 1,600 square-foot roof, for example, will require at least 16 squares of shingles if the full roof is getting replaced. Repairs will only require a portion of that square footage. Homeowners should also keep in mind that roofing companies may order extra shingles to make sure enough roofing material is available for the project. For a 1,600 square foot roof, it wouldn't be unusual for a roofing company to order 17 or 18 squares.

Furthermore, your estimate for roofing materials—including the square footage required for new roofing materials—will be affected by the slope of the roof. Many homeowners assume that the square footage of the roof is the same as the square footage of their home, but this is only true in cases where the roof is flat. Even on a one-story home, a higher-pitch roof will increase its square footage due to the slope multiplication factor. This means the square footage of required roofing materials will also increase.

Will Insurance Cover a Residential Roof Repair?

Repairing or replacing a roof isn't cheap, but you can lower your out-of-pocket costs significantly by finding out if insurance will cover this work. Insurance coverage for residential roofs will depend on your local laws, your existing home insurance deductible, and the identifiable cause of the damage, but you may be able to get a portion of the repair or replacement costs covered if an insurance adjuster approves your claim.

It never hurts to ask, so if you believe weather damage may have shortened the lifespan of your roof, file a claim and have an adjuster visit your home to take a look.

No matter what direction you take with repairing your roof or choosing a roofing company, it all starts with getting quotes and understanding the scope of this project. Take comfort in this estimate as a risk-free tool to help you understand your roof's repair needs and the costs that come with it.